World Puzzle Championship History
1999, Hungary

1999   1998   1997   1996   1995   1992-4

Report filed by Zack Butler
Is the grass always greener on the Buda side? Well, it certainly was for the U.S. Puzzle Team, as (all suspense aside) we pulled out of a tight race on the last day of competition to take home the Puzzle Star for another year.

And now on to the recap. It has recently come to my attention that what started as time-saving e-mails to friends to let them know the results and my experiences have become published on the web and even on paper. But rest assured, this will be the same sort of rambling virtually unedited stream-of-(semi-) consciousness that you have come to expect over the years.

Yes, we learned about all the bridges of Budapest, got to ride on a funicular (or "incline" for those of you from Pittsburgh), and competed with one of the longer and better sets of puzzles seen at one of these competitions. Arriving several hours late after missing a close connection in Frankfurt (and staring at their flipping train-station-like departures board for several hours) was not the most auspicious of beginnings, but after getting settled in, things began to improve. I skipped out on the end of the opening ceremonies (sorry, Gyorgy) to get some sleep, and awoke to cold, rainy, Pittsburghian weather. We went sight-seeing in Pest in the morning and came back to solve puzzles after lunch, the first time that i can recall that sort of arrangement. It seemed to work well for us, although it did take (at least for me) a few minutes to get the brain in gear during the initial team round. Which was ceremonially opened by Mr. Erno Rubik, an exciting surprise for puzzle geeks the world over.

After the team round and the first of three grueling 2 1/2 hour individual solving sessions (actually i don't mind that too much), we had dinner and i ended up in the bar with Ron, Nick, and a few Turks to play King(s)/Rifke. (It's a card game.) Ron and I managed to show our proper respect to the people whose game it is by losing mightily. But after midnight, I slipped out as Nick did a great captaining job by sitting in at the table so I could get some sleep.

The next day was a full (very full) day of puzzles. Which started out for me as bad as it possibly could have, recovered OK in the middle, and stumbled a bit at the end. (I should have gotten the $&^*ing octopus.) Another meat-oriented dinner was followed by Helene rounding up the Americans for a "meeting" in the room of the Turkish captain, Nev. This seemed quite odd, especially when Nev started to give a short speech, but it soon became clear that this meeting was called to give me a trophy for my finish last year. Quite unexpected, and of course he (they) did not need to do this, and so again I must thank him (them?) for their thoughtfulness. From there, I soon went off for an early bedtime, after using the handy English-language GTE yellow pages to figure out how to make a ridiculously expensive call home.

We awoke the next morning to some not-so-good news: the results. After my morning collapse, I had been able to recover only as far as 5th (after being 2nd in the first long round), and the team was barely ahead of the Dutch (who did really well on the @#&ing octopus, among other things). A good showing in the last long individual round put us (we thought) far enough ahead that we needed only to solve the last team puzzle no more than four teams later than them (to get enough bonus points to keep them at bay). Hoping to avoid our Croatian collapse/brain-implosion (the story of which was repeated several times during the course of the week), we did our best to solve the puzzle in an orderly fashion. Not really succeeding, we did at least do a sort of double-check (unlike the triple-check that the second team puzzle got), and finished the puzzle third.

More sightseeing after the puzzles, this time on the Buda side, with the aforementioned funicular, the Statue of Liberty (no longer surrounded by statues of Soviet soldiers, which have been "retired" to a park outside the city, or so said our tour guide), the Fishermen's Bastion (a fortified wall overlooking the Danube upon which I bought a piece of art from a not-particularly-starving artist) and Matthias(?) church (in which every surface is painted, and quite well at that). Then back for dinner and the awards ceremony, in between which Will did his weekly NPR radio show from his room. I was pleasantly surprised to find that my performance in the last round has lifted me to second overall, with Wei-Hwa again taking the overall title by a comfortable margin. Our national anthem was played after the team prizes were given out (including a personalized bottle of Tokaj for each team member on the top three teams), although we had to cut it off as the second verse began.

Then more beer and more cards (did you know that the game @sshole (censored for those of you with parental controls) is known and known by that name in several European nations?). Mostly Canadians at that point, with myself, a German and a Slovenian as well, and we had a grand time, until about 3:00.

Up for the 9:00 bus to Opusztaszer (more cards, a nap, Canadians, no beer), where we saw a variety of more-or-less odd things celebrating the Hungarian landtaking (they seem to be as excited about the 1000th anniversary of it, celebrated in 1896, as the actual event itself). Back on the bus, more cards ("Organ Donor Transplant Hearts"?), and to a horse-show farm/dinner party spot for the final big party. About which I can best sum up by saying that you really haven't seen it all until you've been in a building with a thatch roof at the end of a 2km dirt road watching a Hungarian country music band (complete with cowboy hats and a pedal steel guitar) playing "You Can Call Me Al". That followed a very good horse show (and an impromptu trot through the ring by Jeroen afterward), a dinner of real gulash, and several glasses of wine. And was accompanied by dancing by a people from all nations (at one point I was on the dance floor with two Poles, three Germans, a Turk, a Romanian, two Finns, a Dutchman, and a Canadian). Finally, after an encore, an extra short set, and two more encores, we got back on the bus to return for a short night before flying out. As always, a good time, not enough time in a new and interesting city, good friends, and we all promise to meet up again next year. This time next year is in the New York area, where we will attempt to use our home-time-zone advantage to hold on to the Puzzle Star for another year.


Team standings:

1. USA


2. The Netherlands


3. Czech Republic


4. Germany


5. Japan


6. Poland


7. Hungary


8. Turkey


9. Romania


10. Slovakia


10. Slovenia


13. Canada



1. Wei-Hwa Huang


2. Zack Butler


3. Niels Roest


4. Robert Babilon


5. Yuuki Fuchigami


6. Pavel Kalhous


7. Michael Ley


8. Laszlo Osvalt


9. Jeroen Meewisse


10. Tim Peeters


11. Ron Osher


17. John Wetmiller


37. Eric Sutherland


43. Peter Gordon


53. David Samuel


65. Paul Weiss


World Puzzle Championship History
1999   1998   1997   1996   1995   1992-4

Copyright © 1999-2008 U.S. Puzzle Championship